Going global: international sessions at Conference - Museums Association

Conference 2021: Brave New World

When we gather in Liverpool in November for Conference 2021, we’ll be hearing perspectives from all over the world, and we’ll be sharing the experience across the globe with our virtual attendees.

Our hybrid conference model has enabled us to bring together a wider range of international speakers than ever before – so read on to explore some of our sessions at Conference which are global in scope.

Monday 8 November

0930-1030: Keynote panel – The future of repatriation

An international panel discusses the future of repatriating museum objects.

1040-1140: Collections with feelings

Museum collections are missing feelings, dreams, hope, love, hate and heartbreaks. The stories can be quite one‐sided, the objects can be dry. In this session we hear from colleagues around the world that are trying to sprinkle more feeling in museums by collecting love, breakups and dreams, but also from those that are trying to unveil and uncover stories of love from their collections.

Our speakers look at how museums can open up collections to not only engage new audiences but to rethink what and how we collect. They discuss how collecting with the help of our audiences can create more emotional and relatable collections. They explore how curating more humane narratives can help improve health and wellbeing and provide inspiration and hope for the future.


Foteini Aravani, Curator, Museum of London


Dražen Grubišić, Co-founder, Museum of Broken Relationships

Sharon Sliwinski, Creator and editor, Museum of Dreams/Professor of Information & Media Studies, Western University in Canada

Vicky Iglikowski-Broad, Principal Records Specialist – Diverse Histories, National Archives

1610-1640: Game On – Creating playful and participatory online activities

The Covid pandemic has forced museums to shift to a more active and engaging online presence. In this session, the Newark Museum of Art and Birmingham Museums Trust share how they have developed online games aimed at a younger and more diverse audience. They address the challenges and lessons, and discuss how digital technology can be used to create meaningful experiences beyond the pandemic.


Silvia Filippini Fantoni, Deputy Director Learning & Engagement, Newark Museum of Art

Linda Spurdle, Head of Digital, Birmingham Museum Trust

1610-1710: International exchange – Reimagining the museum of the future

Museums across the globe have had to face the unprecedented challenge of the pandemic over the past 18 months. In conversation with Elaine Heumann Gurian, a panel of international museum leaders share their experience and knowledge to suggest examples of new opportunities and advances over long-standing unresolved problems in museums today.

Amidst a sea of well-meaning rhetoric about change in the sector, the panel explores where authentic examples of change give cause for optimism and how can we use these examples to multiply the museum justice we are hoping for.


Elaine Heumann Gurian, Museum Consultant


Jette Sandahl, Chair of the European Museum Forum

Zak Mensah, Joint CEO, Birmingham Museums

Melanie Adams, Director, Anacostia Museum

Margo Neale, Head: Centre for Indigenous Knowledges, Senior Indigenous Curator and Adviser to the Director, National Museum of Australia

Tuesday 9 November

1040-1140: Community-led recovery in Australian museums

‘You came to our country and didn’t turn black’ references those who came to Australia but did not observe the laws of the land and turn “black”, or turn back, when they found the land occupied. In Australia, Aboriginal communities from remote regions survived the pandemic without incident. Why? Because they retreated to the safety net of Country and reconnected with age‐old values about how to care for Country and each other, in concert with nature.

These teachings are explored in the ground breaking, community‐led exhibition Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters which, after breaking records at the National Museum Australia and the new Western Australian Museum Boola Bardip, goes global in 2021. It erects new structures demonstrating how museums can thrive by fusing ancient sagas and augmented reality through transformational digital experiences to create a brave new world where indigenous cultural values occupy museums.


Alec Coles, Chief Executive Officer, Western Australian Museum


Nigel Hurst, Contemporary Arts Consultant, The Box, Plymouth

Margo Neale, Head: Centre for Indigenous Knowledges, Senior Indigenous Curator and Adviser to the Director, National Museum of Australia

1150-1250: Contemporary artists and decolonising European narratives

A session focusing on the role that artists have in disrupting history and the European narrative that has been at the forefront of everyday culture. Three international artists talk about how they present ideas of decolonisation through their work.

1610-1710, Building community engagement through outdoor spaces

This session explores how museums can use their public outdoor spaces to actively engage in and help build community. Melanie Adams, director of the Anacostia Museum, the community museum that is part of the Smithsonian, discusses how she converted her exhibition on Black “Men of Change” to an outdoor exhibition because the museum was closed. Dianna Djokey shares her experience of working as the project manager on Safe Spaces Soton, a scheme to reclaim unused spaces in Southampton as part of her role at the city’s John Hansard Gallery. This new initiative seeks to encourage the reactivation and rehumanisation of seemingly forgotten ‘in-between’ areas. Tricia Austin, the former head of the Narrative Experience course at Central St Martins, has extensive knowledge of creating outdoor art spaces in public areas that build community as a process and an outcome.


Elaine Heumann Gurian, Museum Consultant


Melanie Adams, Director, Anacostia Museum

Tricia Austin, Academic, Design Consultant and Author

Diana Djokey, Communities Curator, John Hansard Gallery, Southampton